Important Info
SAT
ACT
Frequently Asked Questions
 

About the ACT

ACT Test Dates and Locations in Canada

What is the ACT?

ACT vs. SAT

ACT/SAT Score Concordance

Top Schools: 25th-7th Percentile ACT Scores



What is the ACT?

The ACT (American College Test) is a standardized test that many schools accept as an alternative to the SAT I Reasoning Test as a component of the college admissions application. The ACT is composed of four multiple choice subject tests, which assess the student’s abilities in grammar, reading comprehension, math, and science. The student is given a score ranging from 1-36 for each of these four tests. The final composite score is determined by average the four subject test scores.

The ACT has introduced an optional Writing test, which consists of a 30-minute essay. Although the Writing test is optional, it is required by many of the schools that accept the ACT. The Writing test is given a score from 2 to 12. However, this essay score does not impact the student’s composite ACT score out of 36.

In the past, the choice between the ACT and SAT was made primarily based on geography. Schools in the Midwest tended to prefer the ACT, while schools on both the east and west coasts of the United States asked for the SAT. However, an increasing number of schools are opting to accept either test.

Consider the policies of these top schools:

School SAT ACT
Harvard
SAT I + 2 SAT Subject Tests
ACT with Writing + 2 SAT Subject Tests
Yale
SAT I + 2 SAT Subject Tests
ACT with Writing
Princeton
SAT I + 2 SAT Subject Tests
ACT with Writing + 2 SAT Subject Tests
Columbia
SAT I + 2 SAT Subject Tests
ACT with Writing + 2 SAT Subject Tests
Brown
SAT I + 2 SAT Subject Tests
ACT with Writing
Dartmouth
SAT I + 2 SAT Subject Tests
ACT with Writing + 2 SAT Subject Tests
Cornell
SAT I + 2 SAT Subject Tests
ACT with Writing + 2 SAT Subject Tests
UPenn
SAT I + 2 SAT Subject Tests
ACT with Writing
Stanford
SAT I (+ at least 2 SAT Subject Tests recommended)
ACT with Writing (+ at least 2 SAT Subject Tests recommended)
UChicago
SAT I
ACT (Writing not required)
MIT
SAT I + 2 SAT Subject Tests (1 Math, 1 Science)
ACT with Writing + 2 SAT Subject Tests (1 Math, 1 Science)
Duke
SAT I + 2 SAT Subject Tests
ACT with Writing
UC Schools (including Berkeley and UCLA)
SAT I + 2 SAT Subject Tests
ACT with Writing + 2 SAT Subject Tests
University of Michigan
SAT I
ACT with Writing

To determine whether or not your school of interest accepts the ACT, visit the school's website.


Which test should I take?

An increasing number of schools are willing to accept the ACT in lieu of the SAT I (or, in some cases, the SAT I and SAT II Subject Tests).

However, as the specific policies vary from school to school, the first step in deciding which test to take is to carefully read the policies of your target schools (available on the schools’ websites).

If your schools of interest accept either the ACT or SAT, the next step is to determine which test is better suited to your skill set.

While both tests aim to evaluate the student’s academic abilities, the two tests approach this common aim in different ways. The SAT is primarily a reasoning test. It evaluates the student’s logical thinking, problem solving, and attention to detail. The ACT, in contrast, is primarily a content-based test. In this sense, it’s more similar to the tests that students typically write in high school.

In terms of the actual material tested, the SAT is easier than the ACT. However, the questions on the SAT are trickier than those on the ACT. The phrasing is less straightforward, and there are more traps.

Typically, the students who do better on the SAT have large vocabularies and stronger reading skills. The students who excel on the ACT tend to be more advanced in math and science. That said, there are many other factors that can impact a student’s performance on these tests, including the test format (the length of the full test as well as the length of each section of the test), question format, and the sequence of sections. For an interesting (and humourous) take on what distinguishes ACT takers from SAT takers, see this 2007 article from the New York Times.



How does the ACT differ from the SAT?

The following chart outlines some of the most significant differences between the two tests.


  ACT SAT
Testing Time • 3 hours, 25 minutes (including the 30-minute Writing Test) • 3 hours, 45 minutes
Content • English (grammar), Math, Reading, Science, and Writing (essay) • Reading, Math, and Writing (grammar and essay)
Question Format • Multiple choice (except for the essay) • Multiple choice (except for the essay and 10 math grid-in questions)
Time Structure • English Test: 45 minutes
• Math Test: 60 minutes
• Reading Test: 35 minutes
• Science Test: 35 minutes
• Writing Test (optional): 30 minutes
• Seven 25-minute sections (two each of Reading, Math, and Writing, with one experimental section)
• Two 20-minute sections (one Reading, one Math)
• One 10-minute Writing section
Reading • 4 passages with 10 questions per passage • Sentence completion
• Short and long passages
• More emphasis on vocabulary
Math • Arithmetic
• Geometry
• Algebra
• Trigonometry
• Arithmetic
• Geometry
• Algebra
Science

• Data representation
• Research summaries
• Conflicting viewpoints

• N/A
ACT English Test vs. SAT Writing (Multiple Choice) • Multiple choice questions based on improving essays • Multiple choice questions based on improving sentences, identifying sentence errors, and improving paragraphs
ACT Writing Test vs. SAT Writing (Essay) • 30 minutes
• Score scale: 0-12
• Does not affect the composite score
• Topic related to high school students
• Always last section of the exam
• 25 minutes
• Score scale: 0-12
• Factored into the Writing score
• More abstract topic
• Always first section of the exam
Scoring • Composite score of 1-36, based on the average of the 4 test scores
• Each of the 4 tests (English, Math, Reading, Science) is given a score from 1-36
• Score of 0-12 for the optional Writing Test
• Total score of 600-2400, based on the sum of the 3 subject scores
• Each subject (Reading, Writing, Math) score range is 200-800
• Score of 0-12 for the Essay
Wrong Answer Penalty • N/A • ¼ point deducted for each incorrect response
Score Reporting • You decide whether or not to send your test score. • You decide whether or not to send your test score.

If you’re unsure about which test is a better fit for you, give both tests a try.



Interpreting ACT Scores

Below is a concordance chart for ACT and SAT scores. The chart also provides estimated percentiles for each score.

SAT/ACT Score Concordance

SAT ACT Percentile
2380-2400
36
99.9+
2290-2370
35
99+
2220-2280
34
99
2140-2210
33
98
2080-2130
32
96
2020-2070
31
94
1980-2010
30
92
1920-1970
29
89
1860-1910
28
85
1800-1850
27
81
1740-1790
26
75
1680-1730
25
70
1620-1670
24
63
1560-1610
23
56
1510-1550
22
49
1450-1500
21
42
1390-1440
20
35
1330-1380
19
28
1270-1320
18
21
1210-1260
17
16
1140-1200
16
11
1060-1130
15
6
990-1050
14
4
910-980
13
2
820-900
12
1
750-810
11
1-


Top US Colleges 25th-75th Percentile ACT Composite Scores

The following chart provides information about the 25th-75th percentile ACT composite scores of those accepted to some of the most prestigious US schools.

School 25th-75th Percentile ACT Composite Score
Harvard
31-35
Yale
29-34
Princeton
30-34
Stanford
29-33
Columbia
28-33
MIT
31-34
Brown
28-33
Dartmouth
28-34
University of Pennsylvania
29-33
Cornell
28-32

For a complete list of schools and their respective ACT score ranges, see USUniversities.ca.



When can I take the ACT?

The ACT takes place in Canada five times every year (June, October, December, February, and April). Check the ACT website to find a test centre near you.



How do I register for the ACT?

Register at the ACT website.



Do you offer ACT preparation?

We offer ACT private tutoring at our Toronto or Vancouver office. Please contact us for more information.

 

 
 
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